Being an underdog can create opportunities and make the unthinkable seem possible. In the $8.7 billion golf equipment and apparel market, according to Golf Datatech, you can imagine there are apparel manufacturers of all shapes and sizes feeding the industry—and the powerful and strong are not always what they seem. The same qualities that give them strength are often the sources of their weakness.
In order to out-design, out-source and out-sell the “Goliaths” of the sportswear market, the “Davids” need to embrace five fundamental strategies.
Recognize that product is king. Consumers want apparel that performs as well as it looks. Retailers want apparel that is made of the highest quality fabrics and trims. Product is king. The Davids competing in the sportswear market need to have the most innovative and compelling designs in the industry. Fabrics and trims need to perform as well as they look to keep the active consumer cool and dry.
In our business, we understand from firsthand experience that a shirt that restricts their swing or a pair of shorts that hinders their stride can stifle performance, so we intentionally design apparel that maximizes performance.
Get close to your customer. For Dynamic Design Enterprises-SWC Inc. (DDE-SWC) we recognize the importance of being very close to our customers and being a tremendously responsive vendor. We do this by going above and beyond the typical customer relationship by managing every customer directly from our corporate headquarters. We make our relationships very personalized; we understand the needs of each and every customer and are responsive to these needs. In this case, being a David gives us the ability to instantly pivot when the needs of our customers require us to respond accordingly.
Provide exceptional profit margins for your buyer. Most buyers are laser focused on their profit margins and your goal should be to exceed their gross margin expectations. This is accomplished through a combination of sourcing product at the most competitive cost as well as being the most consistently reliable vendor in terms of quality and delivery.
Devise a business model for effective sourcing. When I founded DDE-SWC in 1994, I followed the standard industry model and appointed overseas agents to select factories, undertake purchasing, pricing and quality control for our company. After a number of years and inconsistent performance by overseas agents, we decided to take direct control of our supply chain and establish our own sourcing offices throughout Asia. This business model involved creating an infrastructure for directly purchasing all piece goods, trims, factory partnerships, testing of all components and finished goods as well as overall quality control.
Our results were dramatic, including:
• Significant reduction in the amount of units being shipped by air from 65 percent to 6 percent in the first year.
• Noticeable improvement in the quality of all components being shipped to our factories due to our firsthand oversight, resulting in an immediate reduction of defective garments produced by the factories.
• Reduction in overall cost enabling us to pass those savings onto our customers and increasing our competitiveness.
Today, we have approximately 64 employees offshore directly reporting to our corporate headquarters in the U.S. offices in Taiwan, Vietnam, Jordan, India and Mauritius. While the perception is that you get one-stop shopping with agents, it comes at the expense of reduced control, higher costs, inconsistent quality and erratic execution.
Turn adversity into opportunity. As with many Davids, DDE-SWC experiences its fair share of adversity. We have always had the determination to turn adversity into opportunity. This is a key to unleashing the power of the industry’s Davids. You either succumb to adversity in business or you use it as a springboard for future success. DDE-SWC has capitalized on some of its most compelling opportunities by turning adversity into new business opportunities.
As Davids in the sportswear apparel market, we need to understand that the Goliaths’ greatest advantage may also be their greatest weakness. Instead of carrying rocks in your shoulder bag, use the strategies I shared to help differentiate your business from competitors – no matter how giant they are.
Hilton Gluck is a seasoned executive with more than 35 years of experience in apparel manufacturing, product development, marketing, and international licensing. Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Hilton introduced Head Sportswear into the South African market in 1975 and was persuaded to move to the U.S. in 1978 to assume the role of director of licensing for Head worldwide where he worked for 16 years. In 1994, Hilton founded Dynamic Designs Enterprises and SWC Inc. to introduce new high profile brands into the U.S. golf and tennis wear markets. In 2014, DDE-SWC celebrated their 20th anniversary. Today, the companies have evolved into multiple divisions and encompass 15 well-established national brands.